Making Rural Women Stronger in Zambia

26 Aug 2013

image UNDP Country Director, Viola Morgan talks to a craftswoman about her products.

Faced with lack of access to credit opportunities and gender barriers that cause their exclusion from mainstream entrepreneurship, a group of rural female artisans from diverse communities in Zambia are well on their way to self-employment which would help them fight poverty and give them a greater voice in the communities.

“I am extremely grateful to have a program that supports rural women. Such support would help me focus my talents on the distribution, managing, and marketing aspects of my business. The training has provided me with the knowledge on how to manage my time and resources more efficiently for my clients’ satisfaction. I will utilize the skills acquired to grow my business and help my kids succeed,” said Florence Monde Mwauluka, a single mother with two kids.

Mwauluka and 14 other rural craftswomen recently benefited from a weeklong crafts value addition, skills and product development training supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Department for International Development (DFID) through the Ministry of Gender and Child Development.

The craftswomen were taught to create competitively high quality miniature models of Zambia`s traditional products such as the Likishi, indigenous beadwork and basketry.

Artisanal handicrafts produced by the women are now part of products dubbed, “Take Zambia home with you” which are currently being exhibited at the 20th General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe.

“UNDP will support Zambian women to address challenges in setting up their businesses. Women tend to reinvest a significant portion of their incomes back into their families and communities,” said UNDP’s Country Director in Zambia, Viola Morgan.

“We are pleased to inform you that the African Management Services Company (AMSCO) – a business training enterprise, will be at hand to offer you some specialized programmes. This is one of several support services we will provide to you and other Zambian women to seize the space for entrepreneurship development,” she said.

Morgan discussed women’s increased chances of attracting investors when organized in cooperatives and gave the example of a group of young women in the Maldives who combined their acquired skills in the arts and crafts field and are contributing to the value chain development of their country.

The British High Commissioner in Zambia, James Thornton said the United Kingdom is committed to improving the lives of women and girls through sustainable economic empowerment. "Endowing women with the right skills and training provides them with a huge opportunity to break the cycle of poverty,” he said.

“My Ministry is keen to work with women, especially those from the rural areas because they have been sidelined for a long time. Yet most artists, artisans and tourism attractions are found in the rural areas…. This training does not only provide an overview of the existing potential among women involved in handcrafts production in Zambia, but also an entry point for women’s self-employment opportunity, Gender and Child Development Minister, Inonge Wina said.

UNDP is supporting the Ministry of Gender and Child Development to make positive strides in strengthening an entrepreneurship culture in Zambia as a means of addressing gender specific barriers that cause women’s exclusion from mainstream entrepreneurship.

In Zambia, a number of entrepreneurs are in the informal sector. Females are in the majority as informal sector operators. Zambia’s draft Decent Work Country Programme notes that the majority of workers in informal employment are women, who are often exposed to “personal, financial, economic and social risks and vulnerabilities resulting from their need to find employment and generate income”. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the informal sector accounts for 72 percent of employment in sub-Saharan Africa. In Zambia, it accounts for 8o percent.

Despite the challenges ahead of their entrepreneurial career, Florence Monde Mwauluka and 14 other rural female artisans appeared to have entered into the handicrafts business with global ambitions – wanting to successfully infiltrate the international market with their products. They are fully aware that to do this, they must form cooperatives to enable them produce handicrafts in buck in order to meet the demands of the external markets.